Sleep, blessed sleep

sleep not foundFor quite a few years, I didn’t sleep well. In the year when I turned 50, I found myself waking up ridiculously early, often at 4:42 AM (What’s that all about, I ask you?). My doctor said that this kind of thing happens for men over 50, and not to worry about it, but …. if I really couldn’t sleep, he had a pill for me to take. It might be addictive, so he said, but a good night’s sleep was even more addictive.

Well,that worked for a number of years, right through my time of retirement. If I didn’t take the pill, I woke up in the middle of the night (4:42 again!), and couldn’t get back to sleep. Lack of sleep made me cranky, unfocused, and generally less than fully functional. So — I went on taking the pills right through my retirement. For all my time in Manitoba, my doctors renewed the prescription without question. I was officially diagnosed with anxiety, which may in fact have been the truth.

Then last year I retired and we moved back to Alberta, and we had to find new medical care. The doctors here looked at my 15-year history on this medication, and would not renew it. It was addictive! Ouch.

Last fall, I had to learn to sleep again, without the pharmaceutical aid I had relied upon for years. It was hard. For a while, I found myself waking up even earlier than in the early years — 3:30 AM was not uncommon. Sleep deprivation became the law of my life.

But things change. I found a different, non-addictive and non-prescription, chemical sleep aid. It has helped me learn to sleep better, and often to sleep undisturbed until 7 AM or later. That may not sound much to some people, but for most of my working life, I set the alarm for 6, to be at work by 8. Now… I don’t often have to up for anything much before 9. So sleeping later is a bonus, and more and more a blessing.

Sleep is a wonderful thing. Sleep deprivation is a curse. I have seen this in the lives of many people. Being able to sleep as much as one needs is a real blessing, and it is only in retirement that I have really been able to enjoy this.

Finding myself able to sleep so late (yes: 7:30 AM is late in my books!) is a real blessing. Realizing that I can, and often do, sleep this well, is one of the things that makes me realize that I may really be retired — in the best sense of the word.

Now… I invite you to listen to Eric Whitacre’s wonderful choral ode to sleep:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WhWDCw3Mng

Did I have anxiety? Maybe, but you’d have to ask my wife to get the goods on that. What I do know is that I have let go of a lot of things in the past year, and I have realized that I have much less to be anxious about. I go for coffee after Sunday services, and enjoy the camaraderie of other parishioners. I look around the room and see our stipendiary clergy earnestly in conversation with people, and see the anxiety on their faces. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just the way the church order things, by putting heavy stress on a few “special” people. I wish for my colleagues that they may find the joy of SLEEP — blessed sleep, and may know the joy of knowing that God’s work does not depend entirely on them.

Published by

robinw48

Retired priest of the Anglican Church of Canada, living in Edmonton AB, and serving as an Honorary Assistant at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Old Strathcona.

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